Somerset Green Homes: Garth’s story

Garth and Richard live in an 1820s-built detached house in South Somerset. Over the last ten years, they have made a number of low carbon improvements to the property.  

View of solar panels in garden

In 2014 they installed 16 solar photovoltaic panels. The 4kWp array was fitted onto a south-facing gantry at the bottom of the garden. Cables back to the house were placed underground. As the trench for the cables was dug, they took advantage of this and routed a water supply up to the greenhouse.

In the 8 years of having the solar, they have almost paid back the investment of this low carbon improvement. Average Feed-in-tariff payments of £600 a year and annual savings on usage have risen from £350 in 2016 to £940 in 2022. This is largely due to increased electricity unit prices.

More recently they have added a battery for storing electricity. This helps them make the most of the electricity generated during the day. In addition, in the summer months, their gas use is minimal due to utilising any surplus generated electricity to heat the hot water via a PV immersion controller. 

Being built over 200 years ago, it is not surprising that the energy efficiency of the property was not up to the standard of today. Like many homes in Somerset Garth and Richard’s home had large sash windows, and heat loss through these was substantial.

In July 2015 they started the process of adding secondary glazing to almost all windows. The product they used was ultra slim and discreet. It is almost invisible – an ideal solution for homes in conservation areas and listed buildings. They have noticed an improvement in terms of comfort. And it has also helped eliminate the problem of condensation in the bathrooms and kitchen, as well as reducing noise from outside. Such an easy way of making low-carbon improvements.

The Spring of 2022 has seen the installation of a water source heat pump. Due to a more consistent temperature over the year in a pond or river, water source heat pumps are expected to be more efficient than the more common air source.

The house is fortunate to be situated next to a river, thus making a water source heat pump a feasible option. They had a closed loop system. This is where sealed pipes filled with antifreeze fluid are submerged under water. As this fluid is pumped around the pipes, it extracts heat from the river.

This fluid is then circulated back to the heat pump where it compresses the liquid up to a higher temperature for use to heat the home via a heat exchanger. The 5-25kW heat pump system was installed at a cost of over £35k with additional costs for groundwork, and construction of a shed which houses some of the units.

They were in a race against time to get the system installed and registered to qualify for the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.  

In view of the size of the house (4 bedrooms), a hybrid system is used. This combines the heat pump with the use of a gas boiler. They have largely utilised their existing central heating set-up, with just one radiator upgraded in a room that was deemed underheated from the pre-installation energy survey.

Being a hybrid system, the output of the heat pump needs to be metered, in order to measure the heat being generated from this, rather than the gas boiler. This is so they can claim their RHI payments. 

Overall they have been really clever and successful in making low carbon improvements to their traditional home. Proving that it is possible to reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency in Victorian homes.

Garth took part in the 3rd of a series of Somerset Green Open Homes webinars. You can view this here:

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